A father-of-three was brutally beaten and tied to a bed before he had a plastic bag placed over his head and was strangled to death with electric cable, a murder jury heard.

Former pub licensee Martin Ackroyd, 50, of Ashenhurst Rise, Newsome, was attacked in his own home by ex-girlfriend Nicola Louise Bedford and her soon-to-be husband Surjit Singh Sidhu, Bradford Crown Court was told.

Prostitute and drug addict Bedford, 30, of Blackers Court, Thornhill Lees, Dewsbury, denied murdering Mr Ackroyd between April 29 and May 3 this year.

Martin Ackroyd
Martin Ackroyd
 

The jury of nine men and three women was told that Sidhu, 49, of New Hey Road, Oakes, had already pleaded guilty to the murder.

Mr Nicholas Campbell QC, prosecuting, told how Bedford - known to friends as Nicky - tried to pin the blame on Sidhu, claiming that while she was there at the time, Sidhu threatened her and prevented her from stopping him.

Mr Campbell said that the three had been drinking and taking drugs when Sidhu launched an attack on Mr Ackroyd in the living room at his ground floor flat.

Mr Ackroyd was punched, had his glasses smashed and was pushed to the floor. He was stamped on and dragged to a bed where he was tied up and a cloth was stuffed into his mouth to stop him crying out.

A plastic bag was placed over his head to prevent blood spreading and he was beaten up before finally being strangled with cable from a DVD recorder.

His body was then untied and was placed in the foetal position in the bath and covered with clothing and bedding.

Mr Campbell told how the couple took Mr Ackroyd's keys, locked the flat and left.

The next day they returned under cover of darkness to clean up the flat. Sidhu, who previously ran his own cleaning company which had a contract with Kirklees Council, returned with cleaning fluid including bleach.

He also brought several knives, a machete, a hammer and a long thin saw and, said Mr Campbell, it may have been the plan to "cut up the body and dispose of it."

The body wasn't cut up, however. Instead Sidhu, whose firm would be called in by the council if someone died in a property, cleaned all the surfaces he had touched. Bedford's fingerprints could be explained because she had stayed there many times.

The couple filled bin bags with clothing and other items including Mr Ackroyd's partial denture and a broken lens from his glasses and dumped them in a wooded area off Tunnacliffe Road.

The court heard how Bedford had suffered a serious back injury and hadn't worked. She supplemented her income through prostitution.

She had struck up relationships with several men including Mr Ackroyd and Sidhu. She would stay with one of them for a while before moving on. All the men knew about the others but Sidhu was "besotted" and became jealous.

Sidhu, who paid £4,500 for Bedford to have a breast enlargement in 2006, had proposed to Bedford and had filled in a marriage application shortly before the murder.

The court was told how Mr Ackroyd became a victim of assaults by Bedford and her friends and relatives. One attack put him in hospital for six days with broken ribs and a collapsed lung.

In June last year Sidhu attacked Mr Ackroyd and Bedford and was charged with common assault. He was released on bail on condition he didn't contact either of them but two weeks later he turned up at Mr Ackroyd's then home in Gledholt Road, Huddersfield, and assaulted him again.

He was again charged with assault but bailed on the same conditions.

Sidhu faced further assault charges in September and all the charges involving Mr Ackroyd were due to be heard at a trial on May 21 this year - after Mr Ackroyd's death.

Mr Campbell said that after Bedford and Sidhu had cleaned up the flat and left Mr Ackroyd's body in the bath covered with a shower curtain, they tried to cover their tracks, taking a taxi back to New Hey Road but stopping some distance away.

By chance there had been some burglaries in the area and police surveillance was underway. They were stopped and a police national computer check revealed Sidhu was on bail and shouldn't be with Bedford. He was arrested.

With the help of two other men friends Bedford concocted a story to blame Sidhu, Mr Campbell said. She was persuaded to ring the police but she insisted on an officer coming out before she told them what it was about.

The police gave no promises so Bedford went to the offices of solicitors Carr & Co in Huddersfield and spoke to Robert Carr. She told him about the body and he rang Acting Det Insp Ian Thornes, of Huddersfield CID, and officers were despatched.

Mr Carr told police not to release Sidhu but he had already been bailed and returned home where he washed the clothes he had been wearing. He was arrested later.

Mr Campbell described Bedford's account as a "tissue of lies" but added: "Some detail she gave was true. She was there and like all the best lies some truth is deployed to make the lie more credible."

He said that Bedford had confessed "full participation" in the murder to a fellow inmate at New Hall prison near Flockton.

Mr Ackroyd, who has three sons Michael, 27, Stephen, 26, and TJ, 22, had been married three times. He ran two West Yorkshire pubs and also worked as a controller at Bridge Taxis in Huddersfield.

Mr Campbell said: "He was a congenial man, popular and generous and loved life. He was also a devoted fan of Elvis Presley."

The court heard how Mr Ackroyd's health deteriorated because of his relationship with Bedford and he lost weight. His family had become very concerned.

The trial is due to last two weeks.